Best Online Certificate in Accounting Programs

Gain in-depth information about accounting certificates, identify potential career opportunities, and compare the top schools with our ranking of the best online accounting certificates.

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by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Updated June 20, 2022

Reviewed by Lizzette Matos, CPA

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Certificate programs offer fast, specialized training for learners. An online accounting certificate can launch your career as a bookkeeper, accounting clerk, or financial clerk.

Many top-ranked schools offer online accounting programs. An undergraduate certificate introduces learners to the accounting field and key accounting principles. Certificate programs provide focused accounting training for entry-level roles. After completing a certificate, distance learners can easily transfer into an online accounting degree program.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Earning an accounting certificate at the undergraduate level typically takes one year or less. Most certificate programs range from $1,000-$5,000 for in-state students. In comparison, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the average cost of tuition and fees at a public institution was $9,349 in 2019-20. Our ranking introduces the best online certificate in accounting programs to help prospective students find the right fit for their budget, schedule, and career goals.

What Is an Online Certificate in Accounting Program?

Online accounting certificates provide a focused introduction to accounting. Certificate programs take less time than a degree, making them a good option for students curious about accounting or seeking the fastest route to accounting careers. Unlike a certification or license, certificates train learners in a subject. An accounting certificate introduces learners to the field and fundamental accounting principles.

Unlike degree-granting programs, certificate programs do not include general education requirements. Instead, students only take accounting courses. The format provides focused training for accounting careers. With a certificate, graduates work as accounting clerks or bookkeepers. They also transfer into degree-granting programs.

What Can I Expect From an Online Certificate in Accounting Program?

A certificate introduces college students to an academic discipline. Many certificate programs provide career-focused training. Earning an accounting certificate typically takes around one year. Most programs require 12-30 credits.

Learners in an online certificate in accounting program take classes in a virtual classroom environment. These classes may be offered live or through recorded lectures. Some programs offer self-paced options for students who prefer more flexibility. Distance learning programs incorporate interactive elements, group projects, and hands-on assignments to build accounting skills.

Certificate programs offer a focused course of study without general education requirements. At the undergraduate level, accounting certificates may offer a general accounting concentration or a more focused curriculum emphasizing bookkeeping or small business accounting. After completing a certificate, graduates can enter the workforce or transfer into a degree-granting program. Credits earned at an accredited school will often transfer toward a college degree.

What skills will you need to succeed in an accounting certificate program? Self-motivated, organized students often thrive in online accounting programs. Self-paced and asynchronous programs require discipline to complete program requirements. The accounting field also requires attention to detail and strong numerical skills.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Popular Online Accounting Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Certificate in Accounting Program?

Accounting Principles

Learners examine core accounting principles, including the procedures to process financial transactions, record accounting information, and analyze financial documents. The course prepares students for more advanced accounting classes.

Payroll Accounting

Bookkeepers and payroll clerks play a central role in a company's operation. This course trains students in payroll accounting, including taxation regulations, processing benefits information, and managing payroll.

Financial Statements

In financial statements courses, learners explore how to create and analyze financial documents. The class covers types of statements, foundational auditing principles, and accounting principles.

Cost Accounting

The course introduces cost accounting concepts like process costing, cost-volume-profit analysis, and budgeting. Students learn about the role of accounting and financial statement analysis in decision-making.

Managerial Accounting

Learners in managerial accounting classes examine the intersection between accounting and decision-making. The course covers economic decision-making, the role of accounting data, and the planning process.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Certificate in Accounting Program?

Colleges set different admission requirements for certificate programs. In general, an online certificate in accounting program will require a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some schools admit students without a high school diploma as part of high school partnership programs.

Prospective students typically fill out an application and provide transcripts showing their high school diploma. Most certificate programs do not require standardized test scores like the ACT or SAT. Applicants may need to provide a personal statement or letters of recommendation.

Certificate programs operate at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Many business schools offer graduate certificates in accounting. These programs require a bachelor's degree for admission.

What Can I Do With an Online Certificate in Accounting Degree?

Career Outlook

College-level training in accounting leads to many career opportunities. With a certificate in accounting, professionals work as bookkeepers, accounting clerks, bank tellers, and financial clerks. These careers report median salaries in line with the national average.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for bookkeepers and accounting clerks was $45,560 in 2021. The BLS projects 170,200 openings for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks every year from 2020-2030.

After completing an accounting certificate, professionals can also increase their earning potential by pursuing a college degree. A bachelor's degree meets the educational requirement for accountant and auditor jobs. This growing field reported a median annual salary of $77,250 in 2021.

An accounting certificate can be the first step into a high-paying career.

Learn More About Accounting Careers

Career Paths

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers maintain the general ledger for an organization's financial accounts. The general ledger lists financial transactions, debits, and credits. Bookkeepers use financial data to create statements and reports. They may also handle payroll processing, create invoices, and prepare bank deposits. Bookkeepers need a strong attention to detail.

Median Annual Salary: $45,560

Accounting Clerk

Accounting clerks process financial transactions, calculate interest charges, and monitor accounts. They specialize in areas like accounts payable or accounts receivable. With experience, accounting clerks review financial documents for completeness, code financial documents, and balance billing vouchers.

Median Annual Salary: $45,560

Bank Teller

Bank tellers process transactions at banks. They deposit cash and checks into accounts, process money orders, and exchange currencies. Bank tellers also help customers by answering questions, ordering bank cards, or preparing savings bonds. Bank tellers benefit from a background in accounting and customer service skills.

Median Annual Salary: $36,310

Financial Clerk

Financial clerks perform administrative tasks that involve financial transactions and records. They assist customers by carrying out financial transactions, calculating charges, and maintaining financial records. A background in accounting helps financial clerks in billing, payroll, insurance, and loan processing.

Median Annual Salary: $44,760

Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants perform clerical tasks in office settings. They schedule meetings, file documents, and provide support services. An administrative assistant with a background in accounting might file financial documents, prepare accounting reports, or perform bookkeeping services. Administrative assistants also specialize in areas like healthcare and law.

Median Annual Salary: $39,680

Accounting Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

A certificate in accounting prepares learners for an associate or bachelor's degree. Graduates from accredited schools can transfer into an associate in accounting program or bachelor's in accounting program to continue their education.

A bachelor's degree meets the minimum education requirement for higher-paying roles like accountant or auditor. According to BLS data from May 2021, accountants earn a median annual salary of $77,250. Accountants can also pursue voluntary certifications to move into specialized roles.

How Do I Choose an Online Certificate in Accounting Program?

Cost

Many students list cost as the most important factor when choosing a program. Fortunately, an online certificate in accounting can be very affordable. Many community colleges offer online certificate programs that take around one year. According to the NCES, students paid an average of $3,377 for one year at a community college in 2019-20.

When researching programs, compare online and on-campus costs while also checking the program's total cost. Total program cost includes expenses such as technology fees, materials, and forgone income.

Program Format

Colleges offer online certificate programs in several formats. Learners can enroll either full time or part time. Working professionals and busy students may prefer a part-time option. Programs also offer classes both synchronously and asynchronously. These program formats will shape the student's experience while earning a certificate.

Location

Program location is important, even for online learners. For programs with on-campus requirements, attending a school close to you can save you money. Consider the benefits and tradeoffs of local programs –– the nearest program might not offer the most affordable tuition rate, for example.

Accreditation

Independent, non-profit agencies grant accreditation to schools that demonstrate strong student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and academic missions. Accredited schools meet high standards for academic excellence, and students at an accredited school also qualify for more types of financial aid.

Colleges and universities should hold institutional accreditation, while accounting certificates may hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Student Support

The best online colleges provide a range of student services. These services include academic advising, career support, and tutoring. Online learners also benefit from mentorship programs and internship opportunities. Research the school's student support services when choosing a certificate program.

Best Accredited Online Certificate in Accounting Programs

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Best Online Certificate in Accounting Programs

  1. Southwestern Community College
    Location

    Sylva, NC

    Tuition

    $4148

    Southwestern Community College, located in Sylva, North Carolina, offers several online programs for students. Many of these options are hosted by the college's business school. Among these offerings is the school's 16-credit accounting and finance certificate.

    The program features five classes and covers topics like managerial accounting, individual income taxes, and accounting software applications. Participants develop the ability to analyze, assemble, process, and communicate sensitive financial data and accounting information.

    The school also recognizes the importance of flexibility, allowing students to attend college while working or raising a family, following a pace that matches their needs. Southwestern Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting and Finance Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $86 per credit (in-state); $278 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 16 credits
    Program Length: 2 semesters
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  2. Stanly Community College
    Location

    Albemarle, NC

    Tuition

    $5453

    Based in Albemarle, North Carolina, Stanly Community College offers an online certificate option in accounting and finance. Students take coursework in financial accounting principles, federal income taxes, and payroll accounting. They also learn the basics of management and gain experience with common accounting software applications. The short, eight-month program requires participants to take 18 credits.

    Upon completion of their program, students should know how to prepare financial statements and tax treatments, execute managerial accounting reports, use computer accounting tools, and effectively share accounting concepts though verbal and written communications.

    Stanly Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting and Finance Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $76 per credit (in-state); $268 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 18 credits
    Program Length: 8 months
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  3. Richmond Community College
    Location

    Hamlet, NC

    Tuition

    $4705

    Richmond Community College, located in Hamlet, North Carolina, offers an array of accounting and finance certificates. Students interested in business, accounting, and finance careers can pursue an accounting specialist certificate, accounting/bookkeeper certificate, payroll accountant specialist, or tax preparer certificate.

    The accounting specialist certificate features 17-18 credits and includes classes like introduction to computers and principles of microeconomics. Students also develop skills related to communication, financial analysis, and critical thinking skills. Graduates can pursue employment in various settings, including manufacturing firms, accounting firms, small businesses, government agencies, banks, hospitals, and schools.

    Richmond Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting Specialist Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $76 per credit (in-state); $268 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 17-18 credits
    Program Length: 2 semesters
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  4. Central Carolina Community College
    Location

    Sanford, NC

    Tuition

    $6281

    Central Carolina Community College, located in Sanford, North Carolina, offers many career preparation certificates, including online accounting and finance certifications. Depending on their goals, students can earn a tax preparer certificate, payroll accounting certificate, or small business financial advisor certificate.

    Graduates can pursue employment opportunities in auditing, bookkeeping, income tax preparation, payroll, and accounts receivable/payable. Students who complete accounting coursework learn to analyze financial and nonfinancial business data, use applicable accounting standards, update manual and computerized accounting records with journals and ledgers, and prepare financial statements.

    Central Carolina Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Tax Preparer Certificate; Payroll Accounting Certificate; Small Business Financial Advisor Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $76 per credit (in-state); $268 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 15-17 credits
    Program Length: 2 semesters
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  5. Wayne Community College
    Location

    Goldsboro, NC

    Tuition

    $5701

    Based in Goldsboro, North Carolina, WCC offers students many useful and career-focused degree and certificate programs, including an online accounting and finance/bookkeeping certificate.

    Students benefit from an average class size of 15-25 pupils, allowing them to further their studies by working closely with classmates and teachers. A high school diploma is required for admission into this program, which takes two semesters to complete. Coursework explores topics related to business, computers, accounting software applications, and spreadsheets.

    Wayne Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting and Finance/Bookkeeping Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $76 per credit (in-state); $268 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 17 credits
    Program Length: 2 semesters
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  6. William Rainey Harper College
    Location

    Palatine, IL

    Tuition

    $6938

    Harper College, located in Palatine, Illinois, offers a stackable accounting assistant certificate to prepare students for entry-level accounting career opportunities. Designed for learners interested in pursuing careers as junior accountants in business, the program may be completed in two semesters.

    Classes cover topics such as financial and managerial accounting, Quickbooks, payroll accounting, business writing, business organization, business software packages, and spreadsheet software. Harper's accounting certificate program may be completed either in person or online. Students also may elect to join and participate in Harper College's accounting club.

    Harper College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting Assistant Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $134 per credit (in-district, in-state); $391 per credit (out-of-district, in-state); $466 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 29 credits
    Program Length: 2 semesters
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  7. Lenoir Community College
    Location

    Kinston, NC

    Tuition

    $5021

    Based in Kinston, North Carolina, Lenoir Community College provides three accounting certificates to online learners: an accounting essential certificate, an accounting and finance bookkeeping certificate, and a small business accounting certificate. Each program requires 14 or 15 credits for completion.

    Students complete coursework covering basic accounting and finance concepts. Depending on their program, classes may discuss principles of accounting, spreadsheets, payroll accounting, and accounting software applications. Other classes cover professional development to support students in their professional job search.

    Lenoir Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting and Finance Certificates
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $76 per credit (in-state); $268 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 14-15 credits
    Program Length: 1 year
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  8. Craven Community College
    Location

    New Bern, NC

    Tuition

    $7809

    Craven Community College — located in New Bern, North Carolina — provides flexible academic options for students interested in gaining business knowledge. The community college offers two online accounting and finance certificates: small business and payroll.

    Coursework in both certificate programs covers areas like principles of accounting, federal income taxes, accounting software, and an introduction to computers. Certificate classes are stackable, and students can apply their credits to an associate degree program if they would like to.

    Craven Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting and Finance - Payroll Certificate; Accounting and Finance - Small Business Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $76 per credit (in-state); $268 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 16-18 credits
    Program Length: 1 year
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  9. Kaskaskia College
    Location

    Centralia, IL

    Tuition

    $4923

    Based in Centralia, Illinois, Kaskaskia College offers career and technical certificates, including an online accounting certificate that prepares students to explore accounting and finance careers. Most learners complete this 32-credit program over the course of three semesters, taking three or four classes at a time.

    Coursework covers important business and accounting principles, and specific classes include payroll and business taxes, business mathematics, and business technology applications. Students who earn this certificate may pursue a career in general accounting, cost accounting, purchasing, inventory control, accounts receivable, accounts payable, or tax assistance. Students choose from solely online courses, hybrid enrollment, or face-to-face classes.

    Kaskaskia College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $162 per credit
    Credit Requirements: 32 credits
    Program Length: 3 semesters
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  10. James A Rhodes State College
    Location

    Lima, OH

    Tuition

    $7735

    Located in Lima, Ohio, Rhodes State College is a two-year school that offers a number of affordable, career-focused certificates and associate degrees. The college provides students a route into the accounting field through its accounting clerk certificate program. Graduates of this program may opt to sit in for a Quickbooks certification.

    The entirely online coursework is delivered by faculty who have first-hand accounting experience. Students complete 18 credits of classes, learning about accounting principles and relevant computer applications. Certificate coursework is stackable, and students may apply their credits to an associate program.

    Rhodes State College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Accounting Clerk Certificate
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $180 per credit (in-state); $360 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 18 credits
    Program Length: 1 year
    Format: Online

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Certificate in Accounting Programs

Is a certificate in accounting worth it?

An accounting certificate introduces learners to core accounting principles. An affordable certificate from a community college can help professionals decide whether an accounting career is right for them. Since certificates take less time and cost less than a degree, they're a good option for learners who want to try out a field.

Plus, an accounting certificate can pay off. A certificate leads to opportunities as a bookkeeper, accounting clerk, or auditing clerk. These fields reported a median annual pay of $45,560 in 2021. A certificate from an in-state community college costs around $3,377.

What can you do with a certificate in accounting?

A certificate in accounting provides focused training for careers involving accounting, finance, and money management. The coursework in a certificate leads to opportunities as an accounting clerk, bookkeeper, bank teller, or finance clerk.

Professionals in a wide range of fields benefit from accounting training. Human resources professionals, account collectors, and administrative assistants may all draw on accounting training.

Finally, a certificate prepares graduates for an accounting degree. After earning an accounting certificate, graduates can transfer into a two-year or four-year degree program. With a bachelor's in accounting, for example, professionals work as accountants and auditors.

Is an accounting certificate program hard?

A certificate in accounting requires strong numerical skills and attention to detail. Students learn to analyze financial documents, manage general ledgers, and track financial transactions. Some learners find accounting courses challenging, but high-quality certificate programs offer several support services for students.

For example, distance learners can work with online tutors or meet with academic advisors to discuss challenges. Instructors also work with students to overcome academic roadblocks. Before enrolling in an accounting certificate, consider your strengths and weaknesses. Online programs typically require more self-motivation and organizational skills than on-campus programs.

How long does it take to get a certificate in accounting?

Earning an accounting certificate can take as little as a few months. The shortest certificate programs typically require 12 credits, which full-time students can earn in one term or semester. Many certificates also offer part-time enrollment, which adds time to the program.

Keep in mind that the length of a certificate varies greatly. While many certificate programs require 12-20 credits, some may require 30 or more credits. The number of credits required and the enrollment format will determine the total length of the program.

What's the highest paying job you can get with a certificate in accounting?

The most common career paths with an accounting certificate include bookkeeper and accounting clerk positions. Professionals in these fields reported a median annual salary of $45,560 in 2021. The highest-paid bookkeepers and accounting clerks made around $62,000.

Accounting certificate graduates can increase their earning potential by transferring into a bachelor's program in accounting. A bachelor's degree in accounting qualifies learners for positions as accountants and auditors. Professionals in this field reported a median annual salary of $77,250 in 2021, significantly higher than the highest-paid bookkeepers. The highest-paying accountant jobs paid around $129,000 in 2021.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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